Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Black Axe #6 Creator Commentary

I've made a Creator Commentary video for the sixth issue/chapter of Mouse Guard: The Black Axe!  Please feel free to follow along in your copy of the story in either issue form of from the hardcover as I talk about the behind the scenes details, art notes, and my head-space as I go page by page and panel by panel. Enjoy!

Direct YouTube link:

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Mouse Guard Canoe and the Heron Process

I've released a new Mouse Guard sketchbook titled 'Dawn, Daye, & Dusk'. It can be found in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/

I've created new pieces for almost the entire contents of the collection––mostly themed on trying to get certain lighting effects in to show time of day.

This Canoe Mouse piece to the left is a finished piece for that collection. And below I'm going to go through the process steps to create the art.

I wanted to do a piece of a mouse in a canoe, and after an image search for 'canoeing at dawn' I found this painting titled Hunters In A Canoe By Philip R. Goodwin. Goodwin's painting had an interesting angle to the action, and while I wanted to depict a single Guardmouse on the adventure, it gave me a steady foundation to work from.

I also found a photo of a traditional handmade birch bark canoe built by Henri Vaillancourt as reference for my mouse boat.

I drew the pencils for this in two passes. The first was of the mouse and canoe. The other was a background drawing of the stream, shore, and far off visitor. I wanted the mouse's mission to have meaning, so I loaded up his vessel with some packed goods (food & medicine perhaps?) and towing some barrels.

I added a dry leaf tied to the stern almost like a flag. And instead of the Moose in Goodwin's painting, I added a Heron––which in Mouse Guard is also a constellation used for navigation.

With the pencils combined in Photoshop, I printed them out on copy paper and taped them to the back of a sheet of 300 series Strathmore Bristol. I could use the printout like pencil lines to ink from by placing the piece on my lightpad, which allows me to see through the surface of the bristol. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens to do the inking. Because I knew depth was going to be important in this piece, I didn't connect any of the background ink lines to the mouse or canoe. This made the next step in color easier.

Flat Colors:
I scanned in the inks and started the coloring process––which was in this case almost as much about flatting colors in as it was establishing color holds. Flatting colors is just establishing with flat colors where every color starts and stops, a grownup version of coloring in the lines. Color Holds are ares that I need to isolate and paint so that they are a color other than black. In this piece, the birch bark, the canoe painted design, the leaf's veins, the water, the  nearer shore and the further shore and Heron are all separate color holds.

Final Colors:
The final colors were achieved by using the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop to work in specific light and shadow when rendering the piece. I use a stock brush in Photoshop that also adds that lightly pebbled texture.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Owlhen Caregiver Reading

I wrote and illustrated a new Mouse Guard short story called 'The Owlhen Caregiver'. Like many of my other short tales, it's a story within a story as a member of the Guard receives a moral parable when they are young that shapes who they are as a Guardmouse.

As part of my ONLINECON event in August of 2020, the story was performed aloud by Meredith Salenger as I displayed the page art on the screen. I've edited that recording so that anyone who missed it, or would like to hear it again, can watch the video on YouTube.

Direct YouTube Link:

I also wanted to share a little 'Making-of' inspiration for the story:

The young character in the tale is Delvin--who is based on my friend Nate Pride. The name Delvin actually means 'Proud friend'. I started writing this story years ago about Nate and his mother caring for  Nate's father at home in his final days--as many of you know, I ended up also caring for my mother for three years, and it was her death at the start of 2020 that prompted me to get the story finished.

Nate is a very generous and caring person. It's why Delvin's Instinct in the RPG is to care for the needs of others above his own. He sums up the nature of service I created the Mouse Guard for. And this tale helps instill where the mouse Delvin may have learned this lesson.

For the exterior of the northern edge of Flintrust, I wanted something that looked peasant-like––Russian peasant to be exact (see below for the inspiration for the tale within a tale's visuals). So my mind went to Anatevka, the setting of Fiddler on the Roof. I found some modern day photos of the filming locations for the movie in the former Yugoslavia now Croatia. These buildings became Delvin's town.

The interior bedroom of Delvin's home were referenced from photos of Bayleaf Home at Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton, West Sussex England. I found the images via a Google image search for 'Medieval bedroom', but later learned about the Bayleaf home in a UK history show called 'Tudor Monastery Farm'

As I often do with these shorts, I used the tale-within-a-tale to explore some other kind of visual style. I've done this with marionettes, embroidery, and illuminated manuscript before––this time I referenced the Russian illustrator from the early 1900's: Ivan Bilbin.

Bilbin's work reminds me of Arts and Crafts block prints and tiles––though he's usually more associated with the Art Nouveau movement. His illustrations were often framed in elaborate borders (sometimes stylized--other times natural drawings) that enhanced the theme or tone of the piece.

This is my favorite piece of Bilbin's. I love hop the open spaces balance against the tigt groupings of patterns and floral ground cover. I copied the pattern on the standing figure's coat as the cloak for the Owlhen's mouse.

And lastly, the Owlhen's home was based on photos I collected of the Church of the Nativity of our Lady of Peredki which is now found at the open-air museum Vitoslavlitsy in Veliky Novgorod, Russia. I replaced certain sections of the timber walls with nesting to get the pint across that an owl lived here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Mouse Guard Vermeer Homage

I've released a new Mouse Guard sketchbook titled 'Dawn, Daye, & Dusk'. It can be found in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/ 

 I've created new pieces for almost the entire contents of the collection––mostly themed on trying to get certain lighting effects in to show time of day.

This piece to the left is a finished piece for that collection. And below I'm going to go through the process steps to create the art.

I wanted to do a Mouse Guard piece that was a peaceful slide of life...not the struggle to survive, but the rewards of mouse society thriving. I looked at two Vermeer paintings: The Milkmaid, and Young Woman with a Water Pitcher to draw from for this tranquil scene of domestic bliss. For the stained glass in my piece, I went to the website of materialsunlimited.com (the antique architectural shop I was working for when I started Mouse Guard..and to decorate the wall, a map of the Island of Sark. 


It's rare that I pencil everything at once--but in this case, I did! I'll often layer drawings together on a light pad and then assemble them in Photoshop--but here I did the entire drawing on the paper. With a few exceptions...I did trace out the map over the top of my printed out reference, where I'd also digitally replaced the text with VENN. The Isle of Venn is a small island in Mouse Guard I've referenced before and is a nod to some family friends who own a cottage on an island in Michigan.  For this layout, I also digitally added in a digital version of the window's leading.

To ink the piece I printed out the above layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of 300 series Strathmore Bristol. On my lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol down to the printout to use as a guide to ink from. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens as I inked the Vermeer homage.

Flat Colors: 
With the inks done I scanned in the physical artwork back into Photoshop to start the coloring process. Here I painted in flat versions of all the colors––where those colors started and stopped, like a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. I also established a color holds  on the window leading, the map details, the milk, and a lighter streak where the light would be pouring in from outside. 

Final Colors:
The last step was to render the final colors in Photoshop using the Dodge and Burn tools. Those tools are used to darken and lighten base colors to form shadows and highlights. Using a stock texture brush also helps add some life to the rendering.
This one was definitely a challenge for me to render a more painterly idea of real light––while also being an illustration with inked outlines.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Vidad Treepens 2020 Wands

Back in 2015 I became a wandmaker. I used an anagram of my name to go from David Petersen in Vidad Treepens and carved and crafted interesting wands from exotic and standard hardwoods. (You can see examples of those here: https://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2015/08/treepens-emporium-wands.html)

Some of the wands became gifts for special friends and family, and I sold the rest––declaring myself retired for the time being from wand-making. Well, it's 2020 and I've made a whole new batch of wands! Below you can see photos of the new wands and they are currently available in my online store: mouseguard.bigcartel.com

12 & 1/2”
Chimaera Quill
Commanding. Destined for great things

10 & 1/4”
Dragon Heartstring
Domineering. Powerful. Requires Wisdom to use

10 & 1/2”
Thestral Hair
Silent. Good for Nonverbal spells

10 & 1/4”
Kelpie Tail Hair
Mildly Flexible. For Transfiguration

Demiguise hair
VERY delicate. Already repaired thrice.

Leopardwood splined w/ Oak
9 & 1/2”
Pegasus Feather
A Tailor’s wand. Reverses with ease

11 & 3/4”
Basilisk Fang
Surprisingly light. Killed 14 giants

Black Palm
Acromantula Silk
Acutely used for Dark Magic. CURSED!

Black Walnut
8 & 3/4”
Cockatrice Tallon
Scriber of Runes. Precise.

Oak & Leopardwood 
Thunderbird Pinfeather
Regal and demanding. For serious Wizards only.

10 & 3/4”
Phoenix Heartstring
A Murderer’s wand. Dark willed.

7 & 3/4”
Kneazle Whisker
Dainty. Perfect for goblin or elf

Oak & Leopardwood
8 & 1/4”
Pixie Wing
Mischievous. Known for hiding from owner

10 & 1/2”
Erumpant Horn
Exuberantly strong. An Auror’s Wand

12 & 1/2”
Chimaera Quill
Commanding. Destined for great things

Leopardwood & Oak
13 & 1/2”
Phoenix Feather
Long and true. The Wand of the righteous 

Oak splined with Leopardwood
8 & 1/4”
Leprechaun hair
Clingy. Good for charms

Oak splined w/ Leopardwood
12 & 1/2”
Manticore Mane
Bold, Powerful, has backfired before.

Wyvern bone
Resolute - A Curse Breaker’s wand

Unicorn hair
Once belonged to the architect Rodrigo Gabriel 

9 & 1/2” (was once 11”)
Dragon Heartstring
Battle worn but Resilient

Oak w/ Teak grip
8 & 1/2”
Selkie Scale
Delightfully perky. A Charmer’s wand

7 Zouwu tail hairs
A Potionier’s wand

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